Brazil has 123 zoological institutions: 110 zoos and 13 aquariums, which together hold approximately 50,000 animals.Although biologically diverse, unfortunately, many Brazilian zoos are of poor quality, with outdated physical structures, bad management and no record keeping. Currently there are few capacity building opportunities to train the staff and improve their performance. Many animals in Brazilian collections come from confiscations from illegal trafficking, and the number of animals apprehended certainly represents only a small portion of the actual number of animals illegally captured in the wild. A consequence is that many Brazilian zoos are overburdened with confiscated animals that are usually maintained off-exhibit and resultantly, under poor standards of care and poor welfare. Monitoring these facilities and circumstances is difficult. Combined with this scenario, the country does not have adequate national (federal) legislation that speaks situations of poor welfare in captive facilities and in recent years, the onus of monitoring these facilities has fallen to State (Provincial) authorities who often have very limited capacity for law enforcement.
The Brazilian Conservation authorities are looking to structure a “One Plan” approach for a number of endemic animal species and want to ensure the Brazilian Zoo Association (SZB) are involved. SZB has a membership of approximately 45 facilities within Brazil and working with us, has committed to developing a welfare accreditation system for its members to assist IBAMA and ICMBiol. Wild Welfare is in turn, assisting SZB with this membership accreditation process.
Throughout the world, and in various sectors, a tried and tested methodology for raising professional industrial standards is the quantification of industrial standards and following this, the assessment (auditing) – either internally or using external accreditation parties – against these standards. Several major regional zoo associations have over the past fifteen years have developed their own membership standards of accreditation and imposed these on their memberships. The Latin American Association of Zoos and Aquaria (ALPZA), the regional association that Brazil falls under has developed an accreditation standard and audit process. However, not all members of SZB are members of ALPZA and SZB feels they need to develop their own process. Wild Welfare has been involved with the process with SZB since its conception.
In 2014 we held preliminary discussions with SZB and IBAMA representatives at Sao Paulo Zoo in Brazil at a workshop aimed at developing a constitution and work plan for SZB. This was followed up in 2015 when we attended the 39th Annual Conference of SZB hosted by Parc das Aves, in Foz dos Iguacu, Brazil. We gave a presentation on zoo animal welfare concepts as espoused by Wild Welfare and engaged in discussion with representatives of IBAMA and ICMBiol in plans for welfare assessments of Brazilian Zoos as had been referred to in the previous year. It was felt that assessment test cases were needed to move forward. One of these test cases, Parque Dois Irmaos has already reported significantly improve standards of welfare practice around the facility, and also started to develop an entire masterplan development for the zoo. These has been ascertained by our follow-up visits to Recife in 2016.
In June 2016 SZB in collaboration with Wild Welfare facilitated a Welfare Assessment Training Course at Guarulhos Zoo, just outside Sao Paulo. It was attended by 30 people from 19 different facilities across Brazil. Certificates of completion were handed out at the end of course. In March 2017 Wild Welfare attended SZB’s 41st annual conference in Pomerode Zoo, Santa Catarina State, Brazil. The whole conference to Zoo animal welfare and we provided three two-hour-long workshops on the implementation of an Animal Welfare Programme. More than 45 people attended the workshops, where we provided a theory lecture, followed by splitting the audience into groups and giving them an hour of scenarios requiring deconstruction, or drawing up species-specific behaviour, ethograms and enrichment options. However, more importantly the SZB President also gave a presentation on the roll out of a welfare certification process for SZB. These processes allow for greater monitoring and evaluation of practices that effect animal welfare in captivity and provide constructive feedback. We are delighted that the SZB will be using our assessment methodology as their own welfare assessment standard and method going forward, and that we can support them in this process.
Our aim is to continue with our on-going partnership to further improve animal welfare in all Brazilian zoos and provide ongoing training support and accompanying SZB assessment teams as assessors and process tutors as part of the developing animal welfare accreditation process.